Athens City Council met Monday night to present an ordinance regarding the University Estates Incentive District, a project that will bring more universal, affordable and solar-ready townhouses to Athens. 

According to the Special Needs Resource Project, universal design allows products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptions or specialized design.

“I think this is an exciting opportunity for the city to increase our number of universal design accessible units,” Councilwoman Sarah Grace, D-At Large, said. 

According to the ordinance, there will be approximately 50 units consisting of two to three bedrooms. The universal design is intended for people to stay in place as they get older. Before the units are built, developers must receive letters of support from the Athens Affordable Housing Commission and Disabilities Commission.

“(Universal design) is really good for people who are getting older, and it allows them to age in place,” Councilwoman Beth Clodfelter, D-At Large, said. “So that's why the people who are hoping that people retire here are so pleased about this. I think that it is also easier for people with some disabilities as well. It will be nice to have more universal design units in our community, and I do like the fact that they're trying very hard to make them very energy efficient. That will save people money month-to-month and it's much better for the climate.”

Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, said that this is a public-private partnership. Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, allows the city and the developers to jumpstart the infrastructure process of building these townhouses, which will save the city time and money. The increases in the tax amount will eventually be spent to pay for the development. 

“This is housing that is universally designed,” Fahl said. “It's housing that may be transitional. It's multifamily housing, or its housing that allows for people who normally don't have housing, to be able to have housing.” 

The baseline price of the townhouses is being renegotiated due to the rising cost in building materials. The price increased from $220,000 to $240,000, however, this still falls within the 2016 Affordable Housing Commission’s recommendation on affordable housing prices. Once the prices are decided, the project will get started, Fahl said. 

An ordinance amending an Athens City Code regarding residential parking permits was also introduced, which will allow residents that have one or no off-street parking spaces to apply for on-street parking permits. Residents are allowed one permit per household, and applications for the 72-hour residential parking permits will be reviewed and accepted by the Service-Safety Director. 

“I want to make sure that the public is aware that this doesn't automatically change everything to 72-hour parking,” Grace said. “We still have the 24-hour parking, unless your residence qualifies and you go to code enforcement and get that hang tag.”

Applicants must provide proof of residence, valid drivers’ license, vehicle registration and a $35 fee. The permit does not guarantee a parking spot for residents, and permits will not be issued if the applicant has “outstanding obligations” to the city. Violation of 72-hour parking will result in a $20 fee.

“I think that this ordinance may make a lot of people in Athens very happy,” Clodfelter said. “And I'm glad to see it coming forward, since they will not have to go outside in the rain to move their cars for at least three days instead of one.”

@MaryJaneSanese

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